LAND O'LAKES - When we think of middle school, we think of sitting at a desk, and taking lots of quizzes and tests.
But students at the SOAR Charter School don't identify with any of that.
"I love it. It's a great opportunity for lots of people who like to be very independent with their work," says 6th grader Lily Tyler.
She started at the brand new SOAR Charter School in Land O'Lakes this year.
"SOAR is a charter school to give kids an alternative way to learn. It's a project-based school focusing on 21st century skills," says SOAR Charter School principal Scott Foster.
Those skills include interviewing adults and giving presentations.
The students practice those skills often.
Students learn by designing their own projects, instead of taking classes, like math, language arts and science.
"I've done one on Lyme Disease because I had Lyme Disease this summer. I'm doing one on the Olympics, one on Pueblo Indians, and one on the University of Notre Dame," explains 5th grader Cooper Cox.
"They do their projects on what they want, but then we give them those Common Core standards that they have to meet so they tweak their projects to meet those," explains SOAR advisor Don Anderson.
Students take district and state tests because SOAR is a public school.
But they don't get any tests or quizzes from their teachers.
They learn by doing hands-on work by going out in the field.
"We go on field studies as often as we can. We did a real cool one at Bond Falls. The kids took all kinds of water quality samples, and we're going to send that information into the Forest Service so they'll have that data," adds Anderson.
Some people may question the effectiveness of independent study, but educators say their formula works.
"I think the thing I've noticed so far as a principal in two different schools is the amount of engagement these kids have," says Foster.
"You just have to be ready to work hard. And as long as you make sure that you're very focused on your work, I think that anybody who wants to come will do well," says Tyler.
SOAR has spots open for students from any district.
You can apply through the end of the month.
There will also be a meeting for parents interested in sending their children to the SOAR Charter School.
It will be held on Thursday, January 9th at 6 p.m. in the Large Group Instruction room at Northland Pines Middle School.
SEYMOUR, IND. - A chain-reaction crash in southern Indiana killed a Minocqua couple on Wednesday morning.
Glenn Cardelli and his wife, Kathryn, both 57 years old, were traveling in south an RV near Seymour, Ind., on Interstate 65. The RV was behind a semi and an SUV, both of which slowed due to highway maintenance.
Another semi failed to slow down behind the stalled traffic and crashed into the Cardellis' RV. The crash killed the couple and John Mumma, 67, an Illinois man driving the SUV.
The vehicles caught fire. Interstate 65 was closed for about eleven hours for cleanup and crash investigation.
LINCOLN CO. - The Lincoln Co. Sheriff's Office is calling a death east of Merrill on Thursday a homicide.
In a press release on Friday morning, the sheriff's office said a 77-year-old woman was found shot and killed around 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. In the same home, a 78-year-old man was found critically injured from a gunshot wound.
It happened at a home on Range Line Road in the Town of Pine River.
The sheriff's office said it believes the shooting is isolated and the public is not in danger.
The Lincoln Co. Sheriff's Office and Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime Lab worked to process the scene.
RHINELANDER - A former contracted janitor accused of sexually assaulting a Rhinelander student appears headed for a trial.
Stavros Iliopoulos appeared in Oneida County Court on Friday afternoon. Attorneys told Judge Michael Bloom they had not reached a plea deal. Bloom decided to schedule one final pre-trial conference for late August before a two-day jury trial was set for Sept. 4 and 5.
In late November, police said Iliopoulos, 65, took a girl into a dark closet and hugged, kissed, and touched her inappropriately at Northwoods Community Elementary School, a public charter school in Harshaw.
Iliopoulos worked for a contracted company, Victory Janitorial, at the time.
THREE LAKES - Plenty of Three Lakes High School students didn't know what they want to do for a career as of Friday morning. By Friday afternoon, many still weren't sure, but dozens got an inside look at possible careers.
The school held its annual Career Day on Friday morning. About 25 presenters included police, an FBI agent, college teachers, and graphic designers.
The school first held Career Day in 2009. Organizers hope students realize they have plenty of opportunities close to home.
All sorts of animals are affected by icy conditions. Some Northern Wisconsin owls dive INTO the snow to hunt small rodents. But recent freezing rain has formed an ice crust that owls can't break through. That means owls are beginning to starve.
Amanda Schirmer has been working at the Northwoods Wilderness Center for the past four years. She says that owls may hang around birdfeeders to prey on smaller birds. They may also be seen near roads.
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